Doctor Who – Ranking the NuWho Finales

Due to the change in the format of Doctor Who between the Classic Series and NuWho, a lot more emphasis is placed on the ‘Series Finale’, i.e. the final episode of a series, usually a two-parter, that often involves big shakeups or changes in the status quo for the show. These include, but are not limited to: regenerations, the death or departure of the current companion, big plot reveals or appearances by well-known recurring villains. Since these episodes are so important to their respective seasons, it seems only fair to rank these episodes against each other to see which is the best. It must be noted that I am ranking these episodes based on their quality but also their effectiveness at tying up the plot elements of the series they conclude, so it may not simply be the case of the better episodes being higher. So, to begin:

hell-bent.jpg

10 – Hell Bent

Perhaps a predictable choice as there is no shortage of hate for this episode within the fandom, Hell Bent is a classic example of wasted potential. Regardless of any personal feelings towards the episode (which I actually feel is a lot better than many give it credit for) Hell Bent comes bottom of this list because it fails almost all of its tasks to round off Series 9. What was the Hybrid? Hell Bent tries to give us an answer – but ultimately it boils down to Moffat using the Hybrid as a buzzword throughout the series to make people think there was an arc, only for the curtain to be pulled back at the end to reveal… nothing. This episode is also hurt by its context – following on from the mighty Heaven Sent, Hell Bent just seems weak by comparison and lacks the emotional impact that the previous story had. Not only that, but Hell Bent also includes some highly questionable writing decisions – why bring the Doctor back to Gallifrey if by this point he doesn’t even seem to care about it? Why waste the amazing departure of Clara in Face the Raven only for her to come back to life here? Why have the Doctor shoot a man in cold blood, even if by this point he has gone insane? Clearly, Hell Bent raises more questions than it answers, which is never a good thing for a finale.

journeys-end.png

9 – Journey’s End

Speaking of wasted potential, here is another classic example of a finale episode that is vastly inferior to its predecessor. Unlike Hell Bent, Journey’s End is actually praised by the majority of the fanbase (probably because it is a Tennant episode) but what most people fail to realise is that the episode didn’t deliver anywhere near what the fanbase deserved, and we know this because the previous episode, The Stolen Earth, was basically perfect. I mentioned in my How to Fix article on this finale that one of the main reasons why Journey’s End seems lackluster is that it takes what The Stolen Earth set up and throws it all away – All of the cliffhangers that were set up are resolved almost immediately with little effort, The Daleks were a real threat in The Stolen Earth but by Journey’s End they are reduced to being spun around like malfunctioning dodgems, and Davros lacks all the subtlety to his character that Russell had written in The Stolen Earth, instead appearing as a ranting raving lunatic who cackles like Emperor Palpatine. Another major thing that hurts this episode is all the stakes from the previous one are gone. Did anyone actually think the Doctor would regenerate, or that the TARDIS would be destroyed? Of course not. And to top it all off, the Tenth Doctor shows his true colours by using his mind powers to wipe Donna’s memory against her will, even though she had his intelligence and so should have been able to make the decision to live or die herself. Overall, Journey’s End disgraces the Daleks, Davros, the Doctor and the show all in one, but it definitely gains points for having the most returning companions in a single episode, including Sarah Jane Smith, Martha, Rose and Captain Jack, as well as crossing over into the spinoff shows The Sarah Jane Adventures and Torchwood.

the-wedding-of-river-song.jpg

8 – The Wedding of River Song

It has to be said that, for all this episode’s faults, it does actually deliver a plot resolution that was satisfying and added to River’s arc. Since we had already found out in A Good Man Goes To War that River was Amy and Rory’s child, it was unexpected that we would get another big reveal about her character so soon, but the reveal that she is the Doctor’s wife rounded off an arc that had been started all the way back in Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead. In typical fashion for Eleventh Doctor finales, the entire episode takes place in a strange alternate universe, but this doesn’t necessarily hurt the episode in any way as it allows for some really interesting and satisfying concepts to play out – for one, Amy brutally murders Madame Kovarian, a villain I despised, so that definitely works in this episode’s favor – also, the idea of Amy and Rory falling in love even when they have only just met seems strange at first but actually works really well in the episode. Overall, whilst not a particularly strong episode, The Wedding of River Song definitely delivers as a finale, although it is not among the best.

the-name-of-the-doctor.jpg

7 – The Name of the Doctor

With the 50th Anniversary on the horizon, The Name of the Doctor had more to do than other NuWho finales – it had to not only conclude the Series in a way that was satisfying, but it also had the task of setting up The Day of the Doctor, which was no small feat. Overall, it succeeds at both tasks in some ways, as it does provide a conclusive answer to who Clara Oswald is an why she is important, whilst also giving us a great reveal of the War Doctor, which came as a huge surprise. Not only that, but it even manages to set up the Doctor’s regeneration in The Time of the Doctor by giving us a look at the planet ‘Trenzalore’, alleged to be the Doctor’s grave. The Name of the Doctor also brought back the Great Intelligence, a relatively minor Second Doctor enemy who (for some reason) got special attention as a returning villain in the Eleventh Doctor’s era despite Moffat claiming that ‘forgettable’ villains like the Rani don’t deserve a comeback. Seriously, Moffat? But I digress – The Name of the Doctor, like The Wedding of River Song, is definitely not one of my favourite episodes of NuWho, but as a finale it serves its purpose whilst also setting up the 50th Anniversary special effectively.

last-of-the-time-lords-e1530024750780.jpg

6 – Last of the Time Lords

This episode can be summed up in one word – strange. Concluding the three-part ‘Master Trilogy’ containing Utopia and The Sound of Drums, Last of the Time Lords does a great job of showing just how much of a threat the Master can be when he puts his mind to conquering the world. For all the faults in the characterisation of the ‘Saxon’ Master that is not consistent with his appearance in the Classic Series, he is a formidable foe in this episode and the stakes are really high, and the twist at the end and how the Master achieves his ‘victory’ came as a genuine surprise to a lot of fans who expected the character to pull a classic ‘I’ll get you next time’ and somehow escape. Whilst the ‘time-reversal’ technique is about as sloppy as the writing gets on Doctor Who, in this episode it is somewhat justified and set up from the very beginning, making it forgivable – although the final scenes that cross Return of the Jedi with Flash Gordon have not aged well at all, particularly given the Master’s lackluster return in The End of Time. One of the best things about Last of the Time Lords is Martha, who really shines in this episode, proving her worth as a companion and essentially saving the Doctor, her family, the planet and all of human history, as well as being the only Tennant-era companion to depart the show with a shred of dignity.

doomsday.jpg

5 – Doomsday

Children of the nation were ecstatic at the prospect of an episode featuring a war between the Daleks and the Cybermen in the run-up to this episode, and generally on that front it didn’t disappoint – Doomsday delivers quite an action-packed episode considering the BBC budget, and the episode delivers a heavy-hitting emotional ending that keeps Tennant fans weeping to this very day. The only thing that brings Doomsday down is the sloppy focus – the episode had so much going on: Torchwood, the Cult of Skaro, Cybermen, Jackie and Pete’s relationship and Mickey and Jake coming back – all whilst trying to deliver the Doctor and Rose’s final adventure together. Overall, though, the stakes are high throughout, there are some great scenes with the Daleks and the Cybermen, and as finales go, Doomsday‘s ‘companion departure’ scene is both brutal and beautiful at once. Highlights of this episode are definitely the brief but intense battles between the various factions at play in the story, and the reveal of the Genesis Ark as a dimensionally transcendental prison that spews millions of Daleks across the nation definitely stands as one of the greatest Dalek moments of all time.

the-big-bang.jpg

4 – The Big Bang

The first finale of Steven Moffat’s run as showrunner gave the fanbase an insight into how his methods of conclude a series vastly differed from that of Russell T. Davies – who preferred to conclude his seasons with a bombastic action-packed finale – in that The Big Bang is a far more low-key and personal episode that any NuWho finale we had seen prior. In sharp contrast with the armies of Daleks, Toclafane and Cybermen we had seen in Russell’s tenure, this episode contains only one Dalek, and a classic runaround in a deserted museum that just so happens to be on the cusp of the end of the universe. The relationship between River and the Doctor is explored a little more (without giving too much away) and Rory gets to stay as an Auton for a day, giving him an awesome character-defining moment as he saves Amy and Amelia from the Stone Dalek with his hand-blaster. In keeping with the theme of the universe collapsing in on itself, The Bing Bang has some quite spooky moments in it to, and some that leave an eerie feeling that something is wrong – particularly the distinctive “You know there’s no such thing as stars”. This finale ties the arc of Series 5 together wonderfully, and the inclusion of the scene in which the Doctor speaks to Amy on the Byzantium (that had appeared in the episode Flesh and Stone, albeit out of context) proves that Moffat does understand the concept of a flowchart of events, who would have thought?

death-in-heaven.jpg

3 – Death In Heaven

As far as episodes ending on both a reveal and a cliffhangar are concerned, few beat the conclusion to the Series 8 penultimate episode, Dark Water. Thankfully, the finale Death In Heaven follows up on the fantastic reveal that Missy is the Master with an action-packed finale that would have brought a tear to Russell’s eye. Moffat proves he can write a wonderful Doctor-Master dynamic as Twelve and Missy work wonderfully together, and this episode also provides a satisfying conclusion to the ‘Welcome to Heaven’ arc that had permeated throughout the series. Not only that, but the episode actually follows through with the death of Danny Pink in the previous episode, going so far as to convert him into a Cyberman and providing some really heavy-hitting emotional moments as he battles with his intense shock and horror of being dead while Clara desperately tries to save him. This episode proved quite controversial at the time due to the dark tone and horror themes threaded throughout, but in hindsight this only adds to the episode’s shock factor and emotional weight. Overall, Death In Heaven showcases some of the best that the Moffat era has to offer, and is certainly in the top 3 finales of NuWho.

the-parting-of-the-ways.jpg

2 – The Parting of the Ways

The original NuWho finale, The Parting of the Ways established several important factors that would become staples of most NuWho finales in the future, and yet it still ranks higher than its immediate successors simply because of the masterful ways in which it depicts the final moments of the Ninth Doctor’s life. The final battle in the Game Station remains one of the best plot devices for a finale of all time – each scene builds the tension higher and higher as the Dalek army slowly crushes all resistance and closes in on the Doctor as he is forced to make some heartbreaking choices to save both the Earth and his companion Rose. One of the highlights of this episode is the Emperor Dalek, now completely insane and convinced that he is a God, as he rants and raves with his deep, guttural take on the standard Dalek voice (that makes it clear Nicholas Briggs had a blast recording), gloating at the horrendous acts he has committed. Christopher Eccleston’s time as the Doctor was short-lived but he manages to leave his mark on the show’s history here more than anywhere, as his defining character moment at the climax of the episode proves just how much the Doctor has learned since the Time War and shows that he is no longer the vicious warrior that the Time War forced him to become. Any doubt that the public had about a new series of Doctor Who were swept away once and for all after The Parting of the Ways, and Tennant’s cheeky grin as the closing theme’s howls drew the episode to a close left audiences wanting more. So the question remains – what NuWho finale could beat this?

the doctor falls

1 – The Doctor Falls

From the first NuWho finale to the most recent, the obvious choice for number one is The Doctor Falls. Jam-packed with just the right amounts of action, heart, fanservice, emotion, terror and hope, this finale had a tough job following on from the equally legendary World Enough and Time, and yet The Doctor Falls met expectations (and in some ways surpassed them) giving fans a finale that helped catapult Series 10 to the top of many ‘Best Series’ lists. For a start, this episode is the first televised Multi-Master story,  and although Big Finish had done a Multi-Master audio in 2016, the chemistry between Simm and Gomez gives this story the edge – the entire arc of Missy’s story as well as the Master’s arc in NuWho in general culminates in this episode, and it does not disappoint. Secondly, this episode is perhaps one of the most emotional yet – everything from Missy’s demise, Nardole’s departure, the Twelfth Doctor’s death and, of course, the aftereffects of Bill’s traumatic Cyber-conversion in the previous episode all coalesce to make this finale arguably the most heavy-hitting. The only factor in The Doctor Falls that brings it down is Heather’s seemingly random appearance at the end – many fans have compared Bill’s ultimate fate with that of Clara’s from Hell Bent, and although the circumstances are similar, Bill’s situation was set up in advance and seems far more warranted, as Bill was definitely a more likeable character and deserved a happy ending, at least in my opinion. The highlight of the episode, by far, is Capaldi’s speech on kindness – not only does this speech conclude his arc as the Doctor as he finally understands what kind of man he is and what his place in the universe is far, but it also links this finale all the way back to The Parting of the Ways whilst also defining the character of the Doctor overall in an impactful speech that will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the greatest Doctor Who moments of all time. Ultimately, The Doctor Falls concluded Series 10 on a high note, proving that Moffat can write a consistent two-part finale once again, has some of the best performances in Doctor Who, and delivers the fantastic finale that Series 10 deserved.

So that concludes our list ranking the NuWho finales. Do you agree with this list? What was your favourite NuWho finale? Leave your thoughts in the comments below, and if you enjoyed be sure to leave a like, or follow Sacred Icon either here or on Facebook for more content like this. Thanks for reading!

See More

Silver Nemesis: A Hidden Classic?

As far as ratings go, reception for 1988’s Silver Nemesis is generally quite poor. The Discontinuity Guide puts this episode down as lacking ‘pace and character involvement’, which could be saying more about the shortcomings of the three-part format than anything else. Regardless, Silver Nemesis does commit the cardinal sin that many post-1960s Cybermen stories are guilty of – including the Cybermen in the story, without doing anything interesting with them. But surely amidst all this negative criticism, there must be something worthwhile to talk about from this story. After all, for better or worse, it will forever remain Doctor Who’s 25th Anniversary episode.

So to begin my analysis of Silver Nemesis, let’s start with the obvious – Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred are fantastic in this episode. The Seventh Doctor is regarded as unpopular, but in reality he is simply overlooked – for those who watch his episodes, a darker, more exciting and more serious side to the Seventh Doctor becomes clear. Once he drops his comic facade, the Seventh Doctor is cunning and devious, but never strays too far from his good nature. In this episode the Seventh Doctor pulls off a daring feat of strategy and manipulation to ensure that neither the Cybermen, the Neo-Nazis, or an insane lady from the past achieve their goals.

Speaking of an insane lady from the past, there is a strange subplot involving a certain Lady Peinforte, who has apparently at some point in the past encountered a Time Lord weapon and managed to bend it to her will (even making it take on her appearance) and has somehow discovered the secrets of alchemical time travel, all whilst being a cavalier from the 1500s. Whilst the character of Peinforte may seem like an odd addition, her presence in the story provides an interesting method by which Cybermen are destroyed – her arrows, which she believes are effective due to being laced with poison, are actually useful for killing Cybermen due to the fact that the tips are made of gold (for some reason.) Ultimately, Peinforte is mostly in the episode for comic relief, and her death is as anticlimactic as her role in the story turns out to be.

The Cybermen in this story are about as effective as they have been throughout the 80s – so make of that what you will. They do prove their effectiveness in combat by annihilating many of the Nazi soldiers, but seeing Cybermen being felled by arrows and tiny rocks of gold flung at them by Ace’s slingshot effectively completes their devaluation as villains that had been in process throughout the decade. After being destroyed by the spears of the Raston Warrior Robot in The Five Doctors it seems that arrows was the next logical step. Nonetheless, the Cybermen do present a threat in the parallels that are drawn between those and the Nazis. Hearing the Cyberleader and the Nazi commander negotiating the division of dominion over Earth in terms of labor camps is chilling.

Ultimately though, having recently read the novelisation of the unmade Season ’27’ episode Illegal Alien, it has to be said that the plot of that book is somewhat superior to this episode. Oddly, both involve Nazis, and one of the reasons why Illegal Alien didn’t make it to Season 26 is due to the fact that there was already a World War 2 episode planned. Silver Nemesis does have some big positives, particularly Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred’s performances as the Seventh Doctor and Ace, who are always a great Doctor/Companion pairing. As with the rest of Season 25, Silver Nemesis is worth a watch for the novelty factor alone.

So there were my thoughts on Silver Nemesis, if you enjoyed be sure to leave a like and you can follow us either here or on Facebook for more content like this. Thanks for reading!

See More

 

 

Star Trek – First Impressions of Deep Space 9

I have been a lifelong fan of Star Trek, but often through watching the same episodes of the same series over and over again, primarily Star Trek: The Next Generation. I later went on to start watching Voyager, but after several Netflix marathons I had finished all the good episodes that I hadn’t already seen on SciFi, and so found that I had run out of new Star Trek to watch. So, after much deliberation, I finally concluded: I had to start watching Deep Space 9. Unlike practically all other Star Trek shows and films, DS9 was a show that had never interested me before due to it’s premise – rather than crewing a starship, the main cast instead man a space station guarding a wormhole, and I had always assumed – wrongly – that this would mean that the show was boring. But after watching some DS9 for myself, so far the highlights have been:

quark-and-odo.jpg

The ‘friendship’ between Quark and Odo

Two surprise favorites of mine are Quark and Odo, who start as fairly bland characters but eventually gain a wealth of development in the first series. The two are initially rivals, having known each other already from the Cardassian occupation, but eventually learn to depend on each other for information and advice as the series continues. Interestingly, despite being framed as a potential antagonist, Quark does eventually come to care for the rest of the crew, particularly Odo.

Odo’s odd abilities and origins are also intriguing, and I am almost certain that what race Odo belongs to or what role he plays on Deep Space Nine will be an important factors in later seasons, and Quark gives us a unique insight into the Ferengi culture. Talking of which:

ferengi.jpg

The Ferengi

Throughout Star Trek: The Next Generation it is apparent that the writers never really knew what to do with the Ferengi as a species. Initially introduced as a replacement for the Klingons after they allied with the Fededation, the Ferengi were just not menacing enough to stick as effective villains and their role was reduced to mere comedy by the end, with the role of primary villain eventually falling to the Romulans and the Borg.

In DS9, however, the Ferengi become a direct focus as their presence on the station is benign – this gives us our first and foremost Ferengi recurring character, Quark, and so the Ferengi as a species are expanded upon a lot more, giving us better insight into their culture and how they operate.

bajor.jpg

The Setting and the Politics of Bajor

DS9 deals heavily with the aftermath of the Cardassian occupation of Bajor, a planet that is not a member of the Federation but has the potential to be inducted, and how Starfleet has to deal with the subsequent political, religious and economic impact of the discovery of a stable wormhole near Bajor that leads to the lucrative Gamma Quadrant just as Bajor begins to reassert itself as an independent power. The character of Major Kira, a Bajoran ex-freedom fighter who takes on the role of First Officer aboard DS9 to aid in the reconstruction efforts, and how her relationship with Commander Sisko and the other Federation characters blossoms shows how the benevolence and honorable intentions of the Federation can go a long way in bringing trust, order and stability to a highly chaotic region, explaining how the Federation has expanded so rapidly despite its dedication to pacifism.

What is also interesting about DS9 is how it refuses to shy away from depicting very real interpretations of political and religious debates, particularly in the context of a sensitive, deeply religious and politically charged former occupied territory. Many of the ethical and moral questions brought up in the early episodes revolve around how Bajor is going to adapt to survive in the new political climate, and this mostly focuses on Major Kira learning to accept and eventually trust her Starfleet colleagues.

 

miles-o-brien.jpg

Miles O’Brien

Fans of Star Trek: The Next Generation will know Miles O’Brien already, as he serves as the transporter chief and occasional bridge officer throughout the series. The first episode of DS9 depicts his transference from the USS Enterprise to DS9, alongside his faithful wife Keiko O’Brien who continues to be little more than a minor character throughout the series. By contrast, O’Brien takes on a ‘Scotty’ role, and fills the shoes of Chief Engineer more naturally than Geordi La Forge did in many ways.

Miles definitely plays a more prominent role in this show than he did in TNG, but the inclusion of Miles O’Brien in so many episodes of both TNG and DS9 gives him the honour of being the character with the second largest number of appearances – behind Warf who doesn’t feature in DS9 until later but featured in all of TNG as well as the movies – and the idea of bringing back a character who was less developed in the main series in one of the spinoffs is something that the newer Star Trek television shows should consider.

bashir.jpg

Doctor Julian Bashir

In short – Bashir is hilarious. Intentionally or not, DS9 follows the Star Trek tradition of having Doctors with eclectic and quirky personalities, and Bashir’s many moments linking to a recurring subplot of his bizarre comedic obsession with Dax make him a distinct character among the rest of the Federation cast. I frequently found myself uttering the statement: “Oh Bashir, you idiot.” at various points throughout several episodes, although not all of his misfortunes and mishaps are his fault – occasionally he is possessed by evil entities or a victim of his obsessive fantasies of Dax made solid by a strange phenomenon in a strangely Red Dwarf-esque plot. Generally, episodes focusing on Bashir are great fun.

 

Overall Thoughts

Having finished the first series of DS9, I can conclude that DS9 is definitely worth the time and I am greatly looking forward to watching more. The characters are likeable, interesting and have good chemistry, and my personal favourites are definitely Bashir, Dax and Odo. For the rest of the casst, despite a few instances of hammy acting or underwhelming sub-plots, generally the first series has been consistently good, with perhaps a slight dip in quality roundabout the middle, although the quality goes back up towards the end of the series.

So those were my thoughts on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, series one. Have you watched Deep Space Nine? If so, did you like it? Leave your answer in the comments below, and be sure to leave a like if you enjoyed. Thanks for Reading!

More Star Trek Posts

 See Also:

 

 

 

Doctor Who Book Review – Illegal Alien

Illegal Alien was among the first of the BBC Past Doctor Who Adventures novels which ran from 1997-2005 and actually began life as a potential TV story for Season 26 and later the unmade ‘Season 27’ which would have aired had the BBC not cancelled the show in 1989. Written by Mike Tucker, a visual effects assistant on Classic Who and model unit supervisor for NuWho, and script editor Robert Perry, this book is essentially a direct novelisation of the script for the unmade TV story, and is therefore split into four parts. With the end of each part being equatable to the cliffhangers seen in the TV show, a nice addition.

The book features the Seventh Doctor and Ace facing off against the Cybermen in Britain in World War II, a concept that works really well and can draw off several Nazi-related themes in a similar fashion to the TV story Victory of the Daleks does with the Daleks and Churchill. But for the first few chapters, the book reads almost like a detective story – the first-person narration of detective Cody McBride makes this story read like a Noir in some places, making it even more of a shame that this was never adapted for television.

illegal-alien-2.jpg

The version of the Cybermen that are intended to be represented in this novel is unclear – the original cover depicts a Cybermen from The Wheel in Space, whereas the republished version from The Monster Collection in the 2010s features a Cybus-Industries Cyberman, as seen from 2006’s Rise of the Cybermen. However, the descriptions in the novel as well as the era it was set in would suggest that the Cybermen are a more upgraded version of the kind seen in Silver Nemesis. Interestingly, this book depicts Cybermats, the entire cyber-conversion process and the concept of a critically damaged Cyberman scavenging humans for parts long before NuWho did. If this episode had ever been produced, it would have required a monumental budget.

The setting of the Second World War also allows for some interesting character development for Ace, who encounters Nazis in the flesh having already fostered a growing hatred of them since her best friend from her childhood was murdered by Neo-Nazis, showing a continuation of her character arc from Season 26. Ace also spends the majority of this book separated from the Doctor, and figures out what is going on independently, showing a wealth of character development since Remembrance of the Daleks.

monstercollection.jpg

As previously mentioned, this novel was recently made a part of The Monster Collection series, which also included re-releases of Tenth Doctor novels like String of the Zygons and Prisoner of the Daleks, and reviews of those novels will follow.

Overall, Illegal Alien is a great read with some truly memorable characters and a story that gives us a unique insight into what the unmade ‘Season 27’ would have been like. Undoubtedly, had this story been made, it would have been one of the most ambitious Doctor Who stories to date.

 

How to Fix – Daleks in Manhattan and Evolution of the Daleks

Welcome to the latest article in a series called ‘How to Fix’, in which I will be offering my opinion on how to improve on stories from various entries in different franchises, in this case I will be focusing on a specific New Series Dalek two-parter in a similar fashion to my previous installment. It must be noted that not all of the films, games or episodes that I will be talking about in this series have to necessarily be ‘broken’ in order to fix them, simply that these articles will offer alternate means of telling the same stories.

The divisive Series 3 two-parter Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks took some truly great sci-fi concepts and executed them in the style of a B-Movie. The episode is infamous for several reasons – the song-and-dance routine, the strangely phallic face of the Human-Dalek Hybrid, and the premature destruction of three-quarters of the Cult of Skaro. Considering that their last appearance had been in Series 2’s Doomsday, an episode that was not only hard-hitting emotionally but also featured the first instance of individual Daleks escaping at the end, presumably to get revenge on the Doctor at a later date. Overall, Daleks in Manhattan and Evolution of the Daleks had a lot to live up to and, despite its potential, it just didn’t stand up to previous Dalek stories in the revival. So, to begin:

evolution-of-the-daleks-3.jpg

Do more with the concept of the ‘Cult of Skaro’, and the character of Dalek Sec

By far the most interesting aspect of this two-parter is the individual Daleks themselves, and tragically the episode does little to capitalize on their uniqueness as characters. The concept of having a secret order of specific Daleks that have the adaptability and intelligence to scheme beyond the capacity of an ordinary Dalek is interesting enough, but to have this small number of Daleks used as antagonists throughout multiple seasons is an even more interesting idea. For one, it would eliminate the problem that the early NuWho series’ had with Daleks apparently finding more and more inconceivable ways of surviving the Time War, as having a tiny number of survivors reappear as recurring villains is better than having to come up with a different excuse as to why Daleks are around each series. Unfortunately, Evolution of the Daleks in particular does away with this concept a little too early, killing three out of the four Cult members in their second story.

Admittedly, the character arc for Dalek Sec in this story is spectacular, and the execution is fairly effective as well (apart from the phallic protrusions on the Hybrid’s chin, but the less said about that the better). Having Sec sacrifice himself at the end to save the Doctor illustrates just how far a bit of Human DNA can go in rehabilitating a Dalek, even one as committed to the cause as Sec, and his hybridization and subsequent struggle with gaining human emotions is both an interesting concept for a Dalek story and a great spanner to throw into the works of the hierarchy of the Cult. The problem is that, upon killing Sec, Evolution of the Daleks disposes of Daleks Thay and Jast as well, in a pointless firefight that ultimately solves nothing, when realistically these two Daleks should have escaped with Dalek Caan as their characters had barely been developed when they were unceremoniously killed off.

evolution-of-the-daleks-5.jpg

Do more with the supporting characters

Although Daleks in Manhattan and Evolution of the Daleks constantly reminds the audience that it is set in New York, with the presence of the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty and Hooverville serving to ground the audience in both the location and the time period, unfortunately the supporting cast of this episode are given strangely little to do in the grand scheme of things. Ultimately, the only real purpose that Martha, Tallulah, Lazlo and Frank serve in the final episode is discovering the the Daleks have attached Dalekanium to the Empire State Building, and this discovery is ultimately pointless as the Doctor fails to remove it in time anyway. Daleks In Manhattan manages to give its supporting cast a little more to do, but overall following the death of Solomon the Doctor assumes all the main narrative roles in this story, which is odd considering usually Dalek stories rely primarily on the companion to figure things out whilst the Doctor strikes up an ideological debate with his foes.

Unfortunately, at the crucial point at which this might have been useful, the Doctor totally fails to engage with the potential of the Dalek Sec Hybrid. It should be noted that, upon the death of the Hybrid, it is truly unclear whether or not the Doctor actually trusted him at all – he does refer to Sec as ‘the cleverest Dalek ever’, but in typical fashion the Tenth Doctor seems to be totally indifferent to the destruction of this opportunity to recreate the Dalek race from the ground up, instead being seemingly more focused on berating the Daleks for their lack of foresight rather than genuinely grieving the reformed Sec.

evolution-of-the-daleks-2.jpg

Rework the Dalek’s plan so that it makes sense

Clearly whoever scripted this episode had no idea how genetics actually work, or how DNA and life relate to each other in the real world. As many fans will already know, Doctor Who has always been about suspending disbelief for the sake of narrative enjoyment, but in the case of Daleks In Manhattan and Evolution of the Daleks this actually hurts the story as the suspension of disbelief is simply unnecessary. The Daleks would surely have the know-how  to create Human-Dalek hybrids even with primitive technology, but the logic of ’emptying’ human bodies to be ‘filled’ with Dalek DNA is about the stupidest way of presenting this concept. Why not just have the Daleks growing the new Hybrid soldiers in tanks, and requiring the lightning strike to bring them to life? Or, heck, just have the lightning strike be there to power their Emergency Temporal Shift to escape to the future – the Daleks could have just revisited the concept of Robomen and indoctrinated Humans into doing their bidding rather than using the seemingly redundant Pig Slaves.

Overall, most of what makes Daleks In Manhattan and Evolution of the Daleks is the mishandling of the Daleks themselves as the main villain – it would be easy to tweak this story to save the Cult of Skaro storyline whilst still keeping its emotional impact, and circumventing some of the stranger concepts in favor of more familiar Dalek concepts would make this story more popular with Dalek fans.

So those were my thoughts on how to fix Daleks In Manhattan and Evolution of the Daleks. I hope you enjoyed, and if you did then be sure to leave a like and you can follow Sacred Icon either here or on Facebook, and for more content like this have a look at the Read More section down below. Thanks for reading!

 

Doctor Who – Ranking the NuWho companions (2005-2017)

NuWho has been on the air for some time now, and has accumulated quite a sizeable array of companions to its name, spanning several eras. Time to rank them all!

#10 – Rose

Yep, Rose is at the bottom. Those who have read previous articles on my site will know that I am not exactly Rose’s biggest fan, and this is mostly due to her erratic and unpredictable behavior – be it laughing and giggling after having just witnessed someone being brutally murdered in Tooth and Claw, or being a total bitch to Sarah Jane Smith in School Reunion, or having a go at Elton for upsetting her mum in Love and Monsters when she herself basically ruined a year of her mum’s life by disappearing and not bothering to tell her. What is frustrating is that this character gets special treatment in the Russell tenure, with basically the entire arc of the era being based around one character – she even got to come back after being gone for a season and a half. So yes, Rose is right at the bottom for just shoddy character development.

#9 – Clara

In a similar vein to my dislike of Rose, Clara stole the show a bit too much when she finally came along. In fact, even before she came along – Jenna Coleman played two distinct versions of Clara before appearing permanently as the genuine article, and this sparked the retch-inducing ‘impossible girl’ storyline that was essentially a more contrived storyline than the whole Bad Wolf thing. The only reason why Clara ranks higher than Rose is that she became slightly less insufferable during her time with the Twelfth Doctor – although she continued to try and take over the show, even getting her face in the title sequence at the end of Series 8 instead of the Doctor’s – the Twelfth Doctor bounced off her better character-wise, and Clara gained more of a personality in Series 8 and 9 compared to the ‘Impossible Girl’ arc that basically carried her through Series 7. Once her character began to emerge, she is really good in some episodes, and once Moffat had got out of his Cbeebies phase Clara was able to meet the more serious and darker aspects that the show took on leading into Capaldi’s era, even having a particularly fantastic death scene in Face the Raven. Although she gets a copped-out immortal lesbian time-travelling spinoff show at the end of Hell Bent she still has to eventually go back and die, which is a pretty dark concept if you think about it.

#8 – River Song

I can genuinely appreciate what Steven Moffat was trying to do with River – the notion of a fellow time-traveller that is encountered out of order and married to the Doctor is a great idea in theory, but the execution was less than spectacular – because her appearance in Silence in the Library and Forest of the Dead was so good as a standalone idea for an episode, people were almost disappointed when her return was announced just one series later. Overall, although River herself was a strong character played excellently by Alex Kingston who also had great chemistry with Matt Smith, her reveal was ultimately a bit of a let down and although she is the Doctor’s wife it is strange that so much emphasis was placed on revealing her ‘secret identity’ only for it to turn out that she is the daughter of the current companions. Despite all this, her departure in The Husbands of River Song is still a defining moment in the Twelfth Doctor’s characterisation change for Series 10 so River can ultimately be thanked for inadvertently influencing the best series of the revival.

#7 – Mickey

Poor Mickey. The strange thing about this character is that he was a genuinely good person – he cared deeply for Rose, he was loyal to his friends and was pretty brave by the end of the show, yet for some reason that defies explanation the Doctor just really seems to dislike Mickey at first, probably because Russell had it in his head from the beginning that the Doctor would fall in love with Rose, but what reason is given for the Doctor’s disdain for Mickey? All Mickey did was get captured by the Autons and then be understandably shaken when the whole thing was over, and yet Rose totally abandons him. Throughout the series Mickey jumps from our universe to a parallel universe and back again, again a symptom of the writers not really knowing what to do with him, and eventually ends up with Martha in an unfortunate ‘match the spares’ situation of the ilk of Neville Longbottom and Luna Lovegood in the eighth Harry Potter film. Ultimately, Mickey’s best qualities are apparent in Series 2, in which he joins the TARDIS team and spends time fighting Cybermen in a parallel universe, eventually becoming a badass.

#6 – Amy and Rory

Although their era spiraled further and further into the nonsense that was Series 7, Amy and Rory are a standout because their relationship gave the show a whole different dynamic that almost makes every episode seem like a continuation of the same story, just framed differently against the backdrop of traveling through time and space. Amy may be bitchy at times and Rory takes a while to find his feet as a character (similarly to Mickey, in many respects) but once he becomes the Roman he becomes one of the most likeable characters on the show. Their best episodes include Amy’s Choice, The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang, The Impossible Planet/The Day of the Moon, The God Complex, The Doctor’s Wife and A Good Man Goes To War so there is a fairly strong selection there alone, and whilst it could be argued that their combined character was irrecoverably ruined  by the abysmal Asylum of the Daleks they at least got a good send off in Angel’s Take Manhattan.

#5 – Donna

As companions go, Donna is definitely going to be among the best-remembered in years to come, possibly even on the same level as companions like Jo Grant and Sarah Jane Smith, in that they all take a very unique perspective on the companion role. In Donna’s case that is the role of a loudmouth with an attitude but who has a heart of gold and, in many ways, is very like the Doctor in some ways. Considering the recent trend that started with the Eighth Doctor TV Movie in which the Doctor has a more romantic relationship with his companion, Donna was a refreshing change as it was made clear from the start that she and the Doctor had absolutely no romantic feelings for each other. This makes episodes in Donna’s era seem more concise and better trimmed, as time isn’t spent on a half-baked romance story in every single episode like in the Rose era.

#4 – Nardole

An ex-criminal cyborg from the future, Nardole is primarily used for comic relief in his initial appearances but the fantastic Series 10 molds him into a well-defined character in his own right, who was an unexpected fan-favourite at the time, who is expected to return at some point in the future. His great relationship with both Bill and the Twelfth Doctor made his inevitable departure all the more tragic, particularly with the manner in which it was carried out – essentially, he was doomed to protect the Mondasian children from endless waves of ever-adapting Cybermen with no hope of escape, which is a pretty dark way to go. Thankfully, we do eventually learn that Nardole survived for years and was eventually inducted into the Testimony system, so Nardole fans can rest easy.

#3 – Captain Jack

Who doesn’t love Captain Jack? Apart from being the first representation of an LGBT character on-screen, (not counting Ace because, although intended, that aspect of her character was never directly addressed by anyone on-screen), Captain Jack is unique among the majority of other NuWho companions as he does not originate from modern-day London, instead originating from the 51st century. As such he is more clued up on the various alien races and technology. The best thing about Jack’s character is that he bounces really well off basically any other character, and is one of the few characters in Russell’s era that I believe is due a temporary return, as he worked so well with both the Ninth and Tenth Doctors and I see no reason why he couldn’t work really well with the Thirteenth Doctor.

#2 – Martha

If there is another companion from Russell’s era that is deserving of a return, it’s Martha. Despite her time in the TARDIS being somewhat overshadowed by her romantic feelings for the Doctor, these didn’t get in the way of her character development or story involvement half as much as Rose’s romantic backstory with the Doctor did, and Series 3 gives Martha a chance to shine in some fantastic episodes like The Shakespeare Code, Gridlock, Human Nature/Family of Blood, Utopia and Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords, in the latter of which she proves her mettle by saving the world and the Doctor from certain destruction. Her departure, on her own terms, sets her above her contemporaries – particularly Donna and Rose – and her comeback in The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky allowed Freema Aygeman to return to her original character Adeola Oshodi’s defining trait of being a human controlled by an evil invasion force.

#1 – Bill

The personification of wide-eyed wonder and enthusiasm, Bill is one of the cornerstones of the masterpiece that is Series 10. Her relationship with the Twelfth Doctor was totally unique and hearkened back to the ‘Professor/Student’ relationship that Ace had with the Seventh Doctor, although in Bill’s case this is taken a tad more literally, as the Doctor takes on a tutor role both in the real-world, marking Bill’s assignments and teaching her in classes, and also on their adventures. Bill’s reputation as a companion who flaunts her sexuality is, in my opinion, undeserved – although Bill does mention the fact that she is gay in numerous episodes, often this is in response to things other characters insinuate, and even the seemingly random remark she makes to the Doctor before they part ways in The Doctor Falls about liking girls is obviously because the Twelfth Doctor appears so oblivious that they probably hadn’t even talked about it before. Ultimately, Bill is one of the most likeable companions in NuWho and Pearl Mackie does a fantastic job of bringing the character to life.

So that concludes my list ranking the NuWho companions, 2005-2017. If you enjoyed be sure to leave a like and you can follow us either here or on Facebook for more content like this. Thanks for reading!

 

 

Doctor Who – Summing up the Moffat Era, or ‘The Tale of Two Moffats’

What is the scariest thing ever imaginable to a Doctor Who fan? A Dalek? A Weeping Angel? The possibility of a second 15-year-long hiatus? Perhaps any or all of these could be considered, but the undoubted victor is the thought that, if one Moffat wasn’t enough, there might actually be two Moffats, and when one of the Moffat’s tenure as showrunner comes to an end, the second Moffat moves in to take his place. Those who reacted to that statement with the appropriate cold dread need not worry, however, as this process has already occurred, we just didn’t realise it at the time…

As Summer 2018 begins to show itself, it really does seem as though a new era is dawning for Doctor Who fans, who recently witnessed the departure of one of the longest running (and most controversial) showrunners in the history of the series. Steven Moffat, the man who at the time of his announcement as showrunner seemed to be the perfect choice to take on the responsibility, has now proven after 8 years at the helm of one of the most well-known and beloved franchises in history that regardless of raw talent, budget, direction or sociopolitical context, the ultimate key to maintaining a reputation is consistency. Most of the British public first heard of Steven Moffat following his string of fantastic episodes throughout the Russell T. Davies era, namely The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances, The Girl in the Fireplace, Blink and Silence in the Library/The Forest of the Dead, and it was because of the consistent quality, scare-factor and thought-provoking premises of his episodes that Steven Moffat earned the reputation for one of the greatest writers that the show had seen, and perhaps even of all time. But what happened during his tenure as showrunner that seems to have split a fanbase, that already had lasting divides, into the camps of ‘pro-Moffat’ and ‘anti-Moffat’?

The answer is, of course, not exactly clear. From a basic perspective, the tone of Moffat’s era differed drastically from that of Russell’s, in that whilst Russell focused on grand epic battles, emotional drama and the impact of the Time War on the Doctor, Moffat shifted the focus dramatically onto a much smaller-scale side to the Doctor’s life – the domestic life that he elects to pursue with Amy, Rory and River Song, whilst also changing the way the show itself presented the Doctor – rather than having the idea of the Doctor as a wanderer who amassed power through influence that Russel went with, Moffat instead constructed the idea of the ‘fairy-tale’ Doctor, a mad magician who saves the day in the most whimsical way possible. This encapsulates the earliest divide in the NuWho fanbase, as many fans who were used to Russell’s incarnation of the show lost interest as Matt Smith’s era reached its sixth or seventh series because the show simply wasn’t the same anymore. From a modern point of view, this split is easily spun to signify the ‘death of Doctor Who’ – naysayers at the time predicted that the show would never reach its fiftieth anniversary – but as most Doctor Who fans know by now, Russell’s era was just an era. It was a popular era, no doubts there, but as with all the best eras of Doctor Who, it had to end eventually. Unfortunately, many fans who were dissatisfied with Moffat and had only watched NuWho up until this point decided that Doctor Who would never be the same again, and so jumped ship.

However, this only explains how the ‘anti-Moffat’ camp first came to be, and there is certainly a lot more to the school of Moffat criticism than just preferring Russell’s era. It must also be pointed out that, amongst a sea of Moffat critics in the early 2010s, there were a vocal minority who believed that the show was better off without Russell and that although Moffat hadn’t exactly delivered a batch of 13 episodes that could all rival something like The Girl in the Fireplace in quality, Series 5 was still a very strong series. Even today, Series 5 is highly regarded as one of the best outings of NuWho, which is made all the more interesting when one factors in the idea that Series 5 is one of the few NuWho series that does not rely on any pre-existing marketable material – aside from one episode with the Daleks and a cameo of some old monsters in the finale, Series 5’s series arc revolved around something entirely original, something that Russell had never even attempted. In a similar manner to the change in focus, Moffat also seemed to change how the show treated its recurring elements – rather than relying on the Daleks for finale-filler like Russell did, Moffat instead put faith in his own ideas. Things like River Song and The Silence became much more prominent in the early years of Moffat’s era whereas races like the Daleks and the Cybermen barely got a look in. This would seemingly mark the next step in evolution for ‘pro’ and ‘anti’ Moffat factions – the idea that the show needs to rely on the Daleks and Cybermen is ultimately self destructive, and yet fanboys like myself simply cannot bear to see a series of Doctor Who without them, and thanks to a series of lacklustre cameos and the abysmal Asylum of the Daleks many Dalek fans opinion of Moffat turned sour.

Of course, there are many more reasons why the fanbase split on Moffat, and even more explanations as to why his writing quality appeared to decline between Series 6 and 7 – blame is often put on the attention dedicated to Sherlock, the poor characterisation of new companion Clara Oswald as well as a general lack of direction in the Silence/River Song story arc. But following the success of the 50th Anniversary Special and the regeneration of Matt Smith into Peter Capaldi in 2013, hindsight tells us that the old Moffat must have given up and walked out, with the fresh second Moffat ready and waiting to take over the show and make it his own, because when Doctor Who came back in 2014 it was totally different from anything NuWho had seen before, and the changes wouldn’t stop there. Capaldi’s first series was still very much a Moffat creation – it contains his narrative mannerisms, his method of misdirection when it comes to revealing crucial plot points, and his… ‘unique’ way of writing dialogue between men and women. But the focus of the show shifted again, and for many it seemed to be shifting back to the same things that Russell had focused on. Whilst Matt Smith’s era practically ignored the Daleks, Capaldi faced them in his second episode that drew heavy inspiration from the first Dalek episode of Russell’s era. Cybermen appeared in the finale of Series 8, this time as a worldwide and present threat rather than as a babysitter to James Corden’s baby or as a fairground attraction as they had been in Matt Smith’s era. And not only that, but Capaldi’s era saw the return of two essential classic series villains who had featured in Russell’s era – the Master, this time in the form of Missy, and Davros. Capaldi’s era still had lingering elements of the ‘fairytale’ interpretation of the Doctor from Matt Smith’s era, but the universe it presented dropped any pretence of the whimsical feel of Moffat’s tenure that we had seen so far and instead seemed to ‘reboot’ the modern Doctor Who universe, bringing it more in line with what Russell constructed throughout his tenure and allowing fans who disliked Matt Smith or his era to make a ‘clean break’ and pick the show back up.

Ultimately, this is where the notion of the ‘two Moffats’ comes from – on the one hand you have Matt Smith Moffat, whose era is seemingly self-contained, has little impact from either the classic series or Russell’s NuWho, aside from a handful of obvious examples, such as the cameo appearance of an Ood and the Russell era control room in The Doctor’s Wife, a mention of the battle to save reality from Journey’s End in Victory of the Daleks and the appearance of an Ice Warrior in Cold War, to name a few. Generally, however, Matt Smith’s era relied on its own internal logic, its own original villains and its own original characters to get by, almost like a show within a show. On the other hand, Peter Capaldi Moffat came along after Smith’s era was done and decided that Doctor Who needed to wake up and resume many of the ongoing plot threads that had been on hold during the Smith era – namely, the Doctor’s relationship with the Daleks and Davros, the Doctor/Master friendship/rivalry, the impact of the return of Rassilon and the fate of Gallifrey. Capaldi’s era also sees many reappearances from races or characters in the show’s history that serve as more than just cameos – the Mondasian Cybermen and John Simm’s Master in the Series 10 finale being the most significant. But what can be gleaned from all of this? It is hard to compare the two Moffats, since both have caused their fair share of controversy within the show’s fanbase, and ultimately the decision comes down to personal preference between Matt Smith’s era and Peter Capaldi’s. But next time the inevitable debate over ‘who is better: Russell T. Davies or Steven Moffat’ pops up, remember that the actual debate should be ‘who is better: Steven Moffat (2010-2013) or Steven Moffat (2014-2017)’

And that concludes the terrifying tale of the Two Moffats. I hope you enjoyed, if you did be sure to leave a like and you can follow us either here or on Facebook for more content like this. Be sure to check out the ‘Read More’ section below, and thanks for reading!